Is Vietnam open for business?

Thien Thanh Sanitaryware joint company

Is Vietnam open for business?

Editor’s Note: Stivi Cooke is an Australian expat living and working in Hoi An Ancient Town in central Vietnam. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect Tuoitrenews’ stance.

Each year, around August, I leave the country to get a one-year business visa as I’m an educational consultant. However, this year I got a shock as I discovered that the one-year visa is no longer available.

Is Vietnam serious about being open for business?

I am starting to wonder about that. So are a few thousand teachers, businessmen, investors, tourists, industry experts and consultants in more than a hundred specialized fields.

What’s the problem? Visas, working and making business in Vietnam.

It is right that every country requires documents and paperwork to be processed and has the right to restrict entry, as it believes necessary. So the problem is not really paperwork, you get that anywhere, but a question of cost and most importantly of all, how long you can stay.

This nation seriously needs foreign help, assistance, training, teaching and investment so how difficult should it be to welcome and invite foreigners to help lift the nation towards its goals of industrialization, modernization and prosperity?

Surely the nation cannot say, “We need your help but you can’t stay long.” What would the world think about that?

Go to any bar or restaurant and meet a foreigner working here and the subject will always turn to our complaints about the impossibility of the legal and administrative situations we find ourselves in while trying to stay here. I can imagine the conversations quite easily. ‘I can’t get a one-year visa.’ ‘The school doesn’t want to help me with the work permit.’ ‘I have to leave every three months.’ Tales of bureaucratic nightmares make great stories over a cold beer.

There seems to be a failure to understand how extended visas and making it easy for foreigners to stay and work contribute to a nation’s development.

Over the past five decades, opening the doors wide to foreigner expertise helped Southeast Asian countries lift their economies to world-class status.

Singapore turned its educational system into one of the most respected high quality teaching systems in the world by encouraging a massive influx of foreign experts to train local teachers to the point where the foreigners are no longer a necessity of their education system. Expertise is now ‘targeted’ to the needs of particular universities and industries. 

China was willing to open its door to thousands of teachers who then passed on modern technological and management knowledge to modernize their industries. The result was the creation of a huge energy supply that powered its gigantic construction boom.

Japan employed (and still does) thousands of foreigners to rapidly reach world standards in manufacturing quality and high-tech production, with the nation competing in space launches, robotics, communications and entertainment.

South Korea became an economic miracle on the back of the thousands of teachers, trainers and experts who taught them virtually everything needed to reconstruct the nation to the point where the East Asian country builds supertankers and Samsung sells phones around the world.

South Korea and Japan allow visas of up to three years. China lets you stay up to a year at a time.

Singapore, although very strict, has many options for living and working for up to two years or more that attract professional expertise from all over the world. Even Cambodia allows foreigners to obtain a one-year visa. All this information I found on their government websites. Why doesn’t Vietnam equal its neighbors in offering these options?

Another issue is qualifications. If a foreigner studied for three years – not four years – in his field, should that really make any difference? In addition, five years of experience in the field limits the available pool of expertise quite dramatically. Is that so important compared to recent up-to-date knowledge?

There are other reasons too to support bringing the length of time foreigners can stay in Vietnam into line with other countries developing their economies in Asia. Vietnam’s education system is heavily dependent on foreign experts – and not just English teachers. Technical trainers, manufacturing experts in modern technologies, business instructors, engineers, water system consultants, public infrastructure advisors, hospitality managers and information technology gurus are required all over the country.

Vietnam’s neighbors, particularly Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar are competing to attract these experts. Why? They speed up economic growth. If Vietnam is truly to complete technologically and in manufacturing and logistics, these people become crucial to its economic advancement. Vietnam can best defend its future by developing areas such as offshore oil fields and raw material processing, using foreign aid and expertise.

Just as Vietnamese authorities are realizing the need to welcome more tourists, so more long-term foreign residents will come and buy houses, invest in businesses, employ and train local people and help lift the country to its deserved place as a model of peace and economic success in the region.

So open the door, Vietnam! Put the sign in the window, “Open for Business,” and let’s do business together.

Tuoi Tre